The calling of the twelve disciples, soon to be named apostles, is rather unclear. We see here in Matthew that Peter, Andrew, James and John were called specifically. Sometime before the delivery of the sermon on the mount based on Matthew’s account of things. Matthew is called after and then we see no other indication of the others. In John based on his account, it appears that two disciples of John the Baptist join the group of Jesus’ disciples. One – Andrew calls his brother Peter to join in (John 1). This account is significantly different than what the synoptic writers provide. Then there is the calling of Philip and Nathanael also in John 1. But of the other four there is no record of their exact calling.
It seems that the original twelve, not just called from their vocations, but called with spiritual intention, find themselves in a position they may not have bargained for. During the ministry of Christ there are many, perhaps hundreds or thousands that make a personal decision to believe in, follow and learn from the Messiah. However, only twelve are given special privilege as it were. Being a follower and learner of the Christ is one thing. Being a follower and learner that has been now designated as an apostle is of eternal privilege.
When I made a decision, some 40 years ago, to believe in Christ. There was no sense or realization of what I was in for as a disciple of Christ. True, there was emotion involved. There was intellect involved. There was a personal sense of satisfaction that now I belonged to something, to someone, to a movement that was bigger than myself. However, I still did not understand the scope of that decision. I suspect that the original twelve may have experienced much of the same. As they progress in their relationship to Son of God, there are times when they speak out of ignorance, act out of desperation and find their understanding of the teacher clouded with confusion and doubt. They, like others, thought that the one they followed would be the ruler of the age, not so much the ruler of the ages. Nevertheless, they soon learned the truth.
Their label of “apostle” soon took a form that they had not expected as followers. They were being trained and equipped to go and tell, not just follow and absorb. Is there significance to that? Matthew’s account of Jesus’ final words would lead one to believe there is (Matt. 28:19-20). Their charge is to “make disciples” not apostles, but disciples – followers and learners of the Christ. Perhaps we (evangelicals) miss the import of that. It seems that many times, the intent of church ministries is to develop apostles before ever creating disciples. The encouragement, even charge, is to win others before they themselves have learned either the joy or import of being a follower learner. That is a misdirection that could be detrimental to even doing a good job of discipling.
The calling of the twelve was a turning point not only in the ministry of Christ, but the future of what we know as the church. Is it a good lesson learned?